Father, I have sinned. It's been twenty-five years since I last used an Apple computer. I confess, I was enticed over to the dark side when all of my clients pursued the Microsoft Borg.
Then, early in May 2010, I was reunited with the Apple world, having consciously skipped a whole generation of technology: no GPS or Kindle, no iPhone or Droid. When I saw the iPad videos online, integrating all these products into one page-size COLOR screen that could float between portrait and landscape (or lock), I was ready to return to the fold. The wireless solution appealed to me as much as the ability to zoom in and out of documents. I had searched for a Bluetooth keyboard THAT WORKED for years.
But, I was not prepared for the return to joy that enveloped me at the Apple Store. First, the place was mobbed each of the three times I went there: evening, daytime and weekend. It was teeming with people who were having fun experimenting and testing with the wide array of Apple products. And, to all appearances, the devices seemed to have the industrial strength to survive the use by multiple players with diverse levels of sophistication. Maybe the store personnel swapped out the used equipment for newer ones each night, but who cares -- the products WORKED so buyers could test drive before making a decision. When I had tried that at other computer products stores, 90% of the devices would be dead soldiers -- either to protect the products from the people who would actually purchase them or else because the equipment was too fragile to endure real world usage.
My second surprise was that the Apple Store had enough sales personnel to serve this huge volume of business. The Consumer Medal of Honor goes to the head of Apple's Customer Service who somehow has instilled a genuine client orientation into the hearts and minds of these young adults. This is why the Apple Store is "the OTHER happiest place on earth!" Sure, it's easy to have this attitude when you've only sold a million products or two, but these people are serving ten times that many potential customers, across multiple products, and they STILL smile!
I remember this level of enthusiasm from the late 1970's and early 1980's when I first became a computer zealot and there were "user groups" and microcomputer conferences where people could gather to share stories of their small victories along the road to learning this thing. I remember the graciousness of young aerospace geeks who patiently explained how to set up my disk drives to save data randomly rather than serially on the cassette recorder that came with my Apple II Plus.
My first encounter at the Apple Store was to buy the iPad product from a young enthusiastic female. My second visit was to attend an overview course where I was joined by about 8 other iPad newbies ranging from young, proficient and savvy to seniors, slower but equally enthusiastic. How do you accommodate such a widely diverse group of customers in one class? I wondered. Very well, indeed, it turns out. As one who is comfortable with technology, I could see the huge span the trainer had to cover. I watched him call on other sales personnel to quickly set up the iPad of a senior couple, while also answering more sophisticated questions about video and audio downloading from a much more adept former iPhone user. The technology gap had been breached with ease.
Afterwards, the trainer lingered to answer remaining questions, including my own query about app development classes. He did not have the answer, but promised to find out from another more senior associate and locate me later in the store. "Right," I thought to myself with well-honed skepticism. "I'll never hear back from him!" Except, ten minutes later he's showing me websites to follow up on at my leisure, at home, bookmarking them on my new device. Imagine: a sales representative who answers your questions AND returns to inform you!
By the time of my third visit to "the OTHER hap pies place on earth," I was beginning to wonder if I wasn't just fascinated by a lon-lost yearning for quality customer service. But, I needed help setting up the Airport Express WiFi. I'd made an appointment with the Genius Bar service technician who simply configured the device. I mean he SIMPLY CONFIGURED a WiFi device! That is how pleasant an experience it is to work with the iPad. In contrast, my Windows/Dell combination at home is still giving me set-up messages about the Windows Wireless Zero Configuration Utility that I should discuss with my Network Support Technician, after reading Microsoft's Technical Document #6115228 at msn.com. Visions of white-coat -clad computer technicians receiving my Hollerith deck of punched Fortran cards flash back to mind. These are the same sour memories I have today as I sit and watch a "Loading....." message before granted the opportunity to view an Adobe Flash clip on my desktop browser. No, I do not miss Flash on my iPad -- not at all.
After almost 25 years watching very little change in functionality under the Windows regime, in spite of hundreds of software updates, I finally see a quantum shift in end-user features, form and performance with the iPad. The computer is fun again and the customer is the most important person in this, "the OTHER happiest place on earth."